Pix & Text By L.B.Senaratne
It would be a fast dying out ancient ritual, " Walli Yak Mangallaya " if the authorities do not take necessary action, as it also signifies the finale of the Kandy Esala Perahera. Its origin is entwined in myth, folklore and legend. The Kandy Esala Perahera ends with this once "Secret" ritual.
This ritual commences with the bringing of the ' Ransivige " that was taken in the Perahera with the emblems of the God and also the trappings of the Tusker to the entrance of the main Devale. But, this is half hidden.
There was a time nearly fifty years ago, when people, though aware, yet would not witness this ritual as it was a secret ritual only confined to the Basnayake Nilames, the elephants, dancers and the people who witnessed the Kandy Esala Perahera to ward off the evil eye.
During this period, young men and women would make vows to find a man or woman before the next 'Walli Yak Mangallaya'. It is a known fact that these vows are fulfilled, accordingly.
Those who have had experiences of this nature would come on this day with their newly wedded partner to fulfill their vows.
This ritual is believed to be the oldest form of dance ritual known as "Kohomba Yakkum." The origin of this ritual is popularly attributed to King Pandavasdeva's era. The first reference to this dance is in the Kuveni Asana of the Kotte period. According to J.E.Sederman the Khoba Kankariya was performed out of love and compassion for King Parakaramabahu VI of Kotte.
However “Walli Yak Mangallaya” at the Maha Vishnu Devale was performed on Wednesday, the last ritual, which is not known even by the dancers and who are unable to shed light as their stanzas have come down from father to son. Some have left this profession. The older generation is old now and though the younger generation continues, which in itself is great, yet they are not able to account for the stanzas. However, even with the little they know, the ritual is repeated year after year.
Those who perform this ritual are not dancers who would participate in the Kandy Esala Perahera in Kandy but they are from Aluthnuwara, where the oldest Perahera is held. At this Perahera too on the last 'Day' Perahera day, a subdued version of this ritual is performed for a few minutes below the steps of the Devale of Dedimunda. This signifies the interaction that existed between Aluthnuwara and Kandy.
This ritual has connections to Dondra or Deundara. Becaue the Perahera at Aluthnuwara is considered the oldest Perahera in the Hills. The shifting of the effigy of God Maha Vishnu and Sunethra Devi by King Senarath to Kandy, is the base for the establishment of the Maha Vishnu Devale in Kandy. This is amply established by the fact that the Basnayake Nilame of Kandy Maha Vishnu Devale is also the Basnayake Nilame of Aluthnuwara Dedimunda Devale, whose incumbent presently is Mohan Panabokke.
This ritual has two implications in the present context - one is to ward off the evil eye and bless those who took part in the Kandy Esala perhera and the other is for vows to be made to Gara Yakka, who does no harm to man provided he is fed properly.
Soon after the conclusion of the Kandy Esala Perahera, and the Day following, the Kandy Maha Vishnu Devale comes into prominence. Soon after dusk the performers from Aluthnuwara come into the scene, but as mentioned earlier they do not take part in the Kandy Esala Perahera. Their task is to perform the "Walli Yak Mangallaya" only.
On the first day, after dusk, with the rice given by the Maha Vishnu Devale, they draw the "Ata Mangala" (eight forms )on the forecourt of the Devale and then they perform the normal dancing repeating the stanzas. They continue to do these performances throughout for seven days. Normally it commences around seven in the evening for about two hours. On the sixth day, the performers commence around the the same period but continue throughout until the seventh Finale. Those who know the performances, come for the blessings.
Another feature in this ritual, the hanging of a young coconut flower over the forecourt. This stays there for the seven days and on the seventh day it is lowered around two in the afternoon and the dancers dance around it in three clockwise and three anti-clockwise directions. The seeds of the coconut flower spill over the forecourt and there is a stampede to collect the seeds, which most people believe are good to be kept in their homes to ward off the evil eye. They keep these seeds until the next day of "Walli Yak Mangalaya,” and call Gara Yakka to come on the seventh day to take his 'prey'. The dance performances of the Devale activities follow until the seventh day, when precisely the ritual closes according to the time that the Kandy Esala Perahera concluded seven days earlier.
According to P. Wirz in " Exorisms and the art of healing " he gives a number of instances connected to Gara Yakk and Giri Devi who later became his wife.
Gara Yakka was introduced into Sri Lanka during the reign of Maha Deliya Mana of the Anuradhapura period was established as a Prince. He was banished from the Kingdom, due to the fact that he married his sister. It s said that the beauty of his sister could not be resisted and therefore he had married her, though she was protected by her father, the King.
It happened in this manner as recorded in folklore on which we have to depend. After ' Gara Yakka ' was born to the Royal household, astrologers who read his horoscope, warned the King that he would have a sister of exceptional beauty. They said that the only alternative is to send this Prince out of the Royal household and the country. But, as time went on, it is said that the Prince developed two long ‘Canine Teeth.’
During the course of time, a Princess was born to the Royal household, who as predicted was of exceptional beauty. Therefore the King and Queen decided to protect her, taking into account the prophesy of the Astrologers. The first and foremost thing they did was to build a Palace some storeys high and keep her at the topmost floor.
One day it is said, this Prince decided that he should see his sister and sought permission to do so from his parents the Royals. They firstly refused, but with the prince's continued insistence they agreed that this meeting should be confined to a few minutes. One day, it is said that the Prince was taken to the Palace where the Princess was living and no sooner he set his eyes on her he desired for her.
Subsequently, with an illicit ' love - affair ' they married and ran away to the wilds, to turn into this form of 'Gara Yakka.'